Some curious scheduling this week, as BBC One showed another two episodes of Outcasts. Once felt like a launch event, twice feels like they want to get rid of it. This concern was exacerbated when news of a move out of Monday primetime started appearing.
Unfortunately, it appears Outcasts may not be doing well. So is this down to poor content, or the general public’s disdain for science-fiction?
A Rich Meal Of Clone Meat
To be honest, I’m not sure the twice-weekly scheduling will have helped its chances. With hour-long runtime and thoughtful pacing, two episodes in a week tastes too rich. I say this as someone who mostly enjoys it, but I wasn’t exactly ready for another the following day, and am grateful there’s only one next week. (Yes, this is my excuse for this review not appearing until Thursday.)
It also makes some of the repetition seem even more repetitive. Last week’s episode two was mostly about these AC clone thingies, who then hang around in the backdrop of episode three before taking centre stage again in the fourth. Feral clone people are a sci-fi cliché anyway; doesn’t this ridiculously complex world have anything else to do stories about?
This Tastes A Bit Sandy
Still, when they weren’t banging on about uses for unwanted clones, I was often engaged. The power struggles in government work for me, even if they are simplistic; I’m also liking spiritual leader and obvious bastard Julius Berger. The sandstorm material in episode three was a good example of wringing a story from another part of their universe.
So, is this a bad TV show? No, I don’t think it is, although it’s some way from perfect. Parts of it feel flat, especially the dialogue. At best, it’s very earnest; at worst, it approaches EastEnders melodrama levels. And I still think it wouldn’t kill them to throw in some humour. You can let characters smile without undercutting your Serious Sci-Fi mandate.
At the end of the day, then, this is a decent stab at serious adult science-fiction that could have been good if it had time to find its feet. But with poor ratings and high production values, it’s looking less likely that it will get that luxury. Check out the third and fourth episodes on iPlayer and let me know whether you’ve been enjoying it, or think it deserves everything it gets.